On 5th September I, Sascha D’Angelo, First Officer sat in the cockpit of our C Series and was given the chance to take part in a special event organised in association with SPHAIR. Both the event organisers are committed to supporting the next generation of aviation experts in Switzerland – which is why they put together a fascinating half-day programme for selected SPHAIR participants – the SpezEvent2017.
What exactly is SPHAIR?
The acronym SPHAIR reflects a professional process that allows participants – once they have got through the rigorous selection procedure – to receive a practical and theoretical introduction to the world of aviation. Armed with basic knowledge and a certificate at the end of the course, participants will be well-equipped to launch their careers in the aviation industry – whether this be in a civilian or military capacity.
A perfectly coordinated operation above the Alps
Our Accountable Manager and Captain, Thomas Frick, greeted around 60 SPHAIR participants at the gate with an aperitif and a speech, following which boarding of the C Series commenced. Mission Commander Daniel Landert welcomed our guests on board, before this special flight took off in magnificent weather conditions. Shortly after having left from Zurich, we headed towards an air zone that had previously been agreed upon with the Swiss army.
Once we’d reached this zone, participants were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime experience – a simulated interception manoeuvre by two Hornet F/A-18 military jets. We re-enacted an unauthorised intrusion inside the Swiss airspace with no radio contact, which, in a real emergency situation, would obviously be a high-risk situation. SPHAIR participants were able to follow the operation with their own eyes from the cabin, watching as the different steps of the manoeuvre unfolded – including the release of a bright flare, which is used to attract the invader’s attention to the military jets. At this point, Captain Landert established radio contact with the other planes and ended the interception manoeuvre as planned. Furthermore, the trip also included a perfectly synchronised photo mission over the Swiss Alps involving another plane – a specially equipped F5 Tiger Jet. Once enough photos had been taken from all possible angles, we were escorted to land at the military airfield at Emmen.
Aviation expertise par excellence in Hangar 4
Although still in awe of their recent experiences above the mountains, participants were soon to experience the next highlight of the day – a wonderfully motivating speech by no other than Claude Nicollier, the first – and to date only – Swiss astronaut. His words certainly fell on enthusiastic ears among the next generation of flyers, but hearing how the launch of a space shuttle feels – from such a great authority – also left a lasting impression on the rest of us. This was followed by a podium discussion, during which Claude Nicollier was joined by Lieutenant General Aldo Schellenberg and SWISS Captain Daniel Landert to address topics relating to launching a career in aviation. Speakers and guests were given the opportunity to exchange ideas afterwards over an aperitif. The diverse line-up of the day gave the young pilots-to-be all the information they need to launch their careers – and if they weren’t sure whether aviation was the right choice for them at the start of the day, they were certainly sure by the end!
Once the event was over, several participants were able to travel back to Dübendorf in style on board one of two Super Puma helicopters. The other participants flew back with us to Zurich on board the C Series – a 15-minute flight, which was the shortest flight to date in the whole of my SWISS career.
A day to remember
The months of intensive planning paid off for SPHAIR and SWISS, who managed to pull off an outstandingly successful event for all those involved. The day will be remembered for a long time by the young SPHAIR participants, journalists, the film team, influencers and flight attendants who took part – not to mention us pilots! At the end of the day, we all agreed on one thing – aviation is, and always will be, one of the most fascinating careers around!
Text/Bild: Sascha D’Angelo